Washington National Cathedral to Allow Gay Weddings


Same-sex weddings may be held at Washington National Cathedral effective immediately, according to an announcement from its dean, The Very Rev. Gary Hall:

Hall"Washington National Cathedral has a long history of advancing equality for people of all faiths and perspectives," said Hall. "The Cathedral is called to serve as a gathering place for the nation in times of significance, but it is also rooted in its role as the most visible faith community within the Episcopal Church. For more than 30 years, the Episcopal Church has prayed and studied to discern the evidence of God's blessing in the lives of same-sex couples. It is now only fitting that the National Cathedral follow suit. We enthusiastically affirm each person as a beloved child of God—and doing so means including the full participation of gays and lesbians in the life of this spiritual home for the nation."

Consistent with the canons of the Episcopal Church, the Cathedral will begin celebrating same-sex marriage ceremonies using a rite adapted from an existing blessing ceremony approved in August 2012 by the Church at its General Convention. That approval allowed for the bishops who oversee each diocese within the Church to decide whether or not to allow the rite's use or to allow celebration of same-sex marriage. In light of the legality of civil marriage for same-sex couples in the District of Columbia and Maryland, the Rt. Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde (whose Episcopal Diocese of Washington includes D.C. and four counties in Maryland), decided in December 2012 to allow this expansion of the sacrament. Hall, as dean of the National Cathedral, ultimately led the Cathedral's decision and adaptation of the same-sex rite.

"In my 35 years of ordained ministry, some of the most personally inspiring work I have witnessed has been among gay and lesbian communities where I have served," Hall noted. "I consider it a great honor to lead this Cathedral as it takes another historic step toward greater equality—and I am pleased that this step follows the results made clear in this past November's election, when three states voted to allow same-sex marriage," he added.

"Matters of human sexual identity and questions about the Church's role in blessing lifelong, committed relationships between its members are serious issues around which feelings run high and people of good will can often disagree. It is my hope and prayer that, if all of us open ourselves to the fullness and diversity of our nation's many voices, we will learn to walk together in a new way as we listen for God's call to us to be faithful to each other and to God," Hall said.

"The Episcopal Church has shown faithfulness and courage in the long discernment process that led to the development and approval of this rite. The Diocese of Washington has similarly been a leader in the implementation of marriage equality. I have shared this decision with the Chapter and staff prior to this announcement, and I am proud that Washington National Cathedral will be among the first Episcopal institutions to adopt and implement a rite that will enable our faithful LGBT members to share in the sacramental blessings of Christian marriage," Hall concluded.

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  1. A beautiful statement by Gary Hall using such terms as "enthusiastically affirm" and "celebrate."

    I would have liked to see the word "welcomes" rather than "allow" in the post's title.

    Perhaps, one day, an iconic statue of Harvey Milk will join the likes of Eleanor Roosevelt in the Cathedral.

    Thank God for some progress.

    Posted by: Anon | Jan 9, 2013 9:55:15 AM

  2. It is indeed a very fulsome and welcoming statement.
    And I have to observe that it is also Christian.
    That should not surprise me, but it does.

    Posted by: JackFknTwist | Jan 9, 2013 10:12:24 AM

  3. JACKFKNTWIST, I'm sorry that the poor behavior of some Christians has given all Christians a bad name to some, but please know that there are many Christians who love and welcome gay people. They just aren't as loud perhaps as their more conservative cohorts.

    Posted by: Isms | Jan 9, 2013 10:14:37 AM

  4. I don't think I will ever be able to accept Christians' apologies after everything they have done to gays and lesbians over the centuries. A simple "sorry" and "you are welcomed here" is laughable. But I know many of you will no doubt run to take this "wonderful" opportunity to be able to marry in a cathedral. Barf. So it goes.

    Posted by: Idon'tthinkso | Jan 9, 2013 10:28:30 AM


    love it.

    Posted by: joe | Jan 9, 2013 10:40:08 AM

  6. It will be interesting to see follow-ups to this report.

    I believe the Cathedral's own press release stated that one needs to be a member of their congregation to be married there.

    I believe the Cathedral, on other occasions, claims that they do not have a congregation...that they are a "national" church.

    They do have the "National Cathedral Association" which doesn't mean that one is a member of the church. I believe it is mostly a polite name for donors.

    Can any Towleroad readers who live in the DC area clarify this?

    Posted by: ag | Jan 9, 2013 10:45:30 AM

  7. BRAVO. I thought the Episcopal Church in the US did not allow gay marriage so my question is "Is this a blessing of a same sex marriage after the legal civil wedding or is this an actual legal marriage ceremony" that will be performed at the Cathedral?

    Posted by: Swiminbuff | Jan 9, 2013 11:26:51 AM

  8. The Washington Post also covered this story and Rev. Hall had this to say about the recently approved rite for same sex weddings ...

    The “heterosexual marriage [ritual] still has some vestiges of patriarchy, with woman being property. There’s hope in same-sex marriage that it is a teachable moment for heterosexual couples. The new rite is grounded in baptism and radical equality of all people before God,” said Hall, who has been blessing ceremonies for same-sex couples for decades. “I’d like to use it for heterosexual weddings because I think it’s so much better than our marriage services.”

    Posted by: JT | Jan 9, 2013 11:37:31 AM

  9. There is no increased sanctity in a cathedral, only glorious pretentions suited to a hungry humanity striving to feel worthy. In fact worthiness, like consciousness is a given waiting only to be realized. If a church and churchmen help that's good.

    Posted by: UFFDA | Jan 9, 2013 12:52:48 PM

  10. "only glorious pretentions suited to a hungry humanity striving to feel worthy"
    BTW the Cathedral has no parish membership. Being allowed to be married there depends on how important you are (president's daughters), your connection to the PECF institutions (St. Albans graduates), or how much money you can throw around (I'm sure it happens). There is a parish church a short walk away called St. Albans.

    Posted by: EchtKultig | Jan 9, 2013 4:50:42 PM

  11. The Episcopal Church is walking a tightrope. It *does not* recognize (religious) same-sex marriage. The canon law of TEC still specifies (religious) marriage is between a man and a woman. (Incidentally, there is no mention of children!) The Book of Common Prayer has a service of (religious) marriage - again it clearly specifies a man and a woman.

    TEC *does* offer a rite of blessing a same-sex union. This rite may be used only with the consent of the diocesan bishop. This rite may take place in a parish even if the state it's in does not allow for same-sex marriage.

    In some dioceses, the priest, as a functionary of the state, may be allowed by the diocesan bishop to perform the civil marriage. In which case, the religious rite and the civil marriage may be combined. It appears that the Diocese of Washington, like the dioceses of the state of NY, has opted for this procedure. Otherwise, the order does not matter.

    It should be noted that there are only about 16 marriages a year at the National Cathedral. (see Echtkultig's comment above)

    To follow on Echtkultig, according to the diocese's own canons, a Cathedral may constitue a parish, or it may not. Yes, canon law within the Anglican Communion is a nightmare.

    It is not unusual for any parish/church to require some sort of connection to allow its use for marriage - some extenuating circumstances do apply (such as the sheer size of the guest list).

    Posted by: Diogenes Arktos | Jan 9, 2013 10:27:34 PM

  12. This so called church is going to hell and everybody in it

    Posted by: bet | Jan 10, 2013 12:03:12 AM

  13. @Bet: I don't want to ruin your illusions and beliefs in myths. However, all that stuff about devils and angels and heaven and hell is about as real as Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny. Check your calendar. It is the 21st and not the 1st cantury.

    Posted by: andrew | Jan 10, 2013 8:47:09 AM

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